It’s that time of year again—time to pay homage to the wackiest, most wonderful, insanely useful, and just plain insane tech gadgets around. As you might know by now, I’m a huge fan of “unique” gifts. Lucky for all of us who appreciate the stranger things (and the Stranger Things) this year, the cray-cray cup runneth over. So, off we go.
If you’ve been jonesing for a robot since the early Jetson days, Kuri ($799) delivers big time on cute and quirky, minus the ability to wash the windows and clean up after Astro. Kuri’s a robotic home companion that wanders around the house shooting short videos to send to you while you’re away, so that you never miss a moment. Go ahead and chat her up. She talks back— in endearing beeps and chirps—and the occasional purr. You can also access her remotely to play music and podcasts. Or to just scare the heck out of your cat or kids. I mean, c’mon, you know that’s fun.
GOING FULL CIRCLE
This one looks like a mini-KurI. Or a cyclops cyborg eyeball. But the newest Samsung Gear 360 ($229.99) captures whatever is happening in 360 degrees of 4K high definition. This is the camera to bring when you are jumping out of a plane or doing anything similarly wild. Just hold it and let it record the moment. Or broadcast live to Facebook or even Gear VR. It’s light and easy to hold or you can pop it into a tripod and let it capture crowd or event footage.
THE STRANGEST THINGS
Leave regular gifts to the mouth breathers. This Stranger Things Alphabet Wall ($85) comes courtesy of TheAltarEgos on Etsy. Customize it with solid or colored lights. Hang it on your door. Or wall. Or cubicle. Then, Leggo my Eggo…purse. The waffle box inspired crossbody bag ($32.90) can hold as many strange things and D&D figures as you want. If that doesn’t quite do it for you, polish-up your fandom with the Stranger Things water slide nail decals ($3.50). Nailed it.
THE LAST BREAKFAST
ThinkGeek serves up all kinds of wacky-wonderful gifts, and they’ve outdone themselves with Star Wars merch this year, starting with the breakfast of Jedi champions: R2-D2 French Press (29.99), Death Star Waffle Maker ($39.99), BB-8 Heat Change Mug ($12.99), and Star Wars Snack Bowls ($16.99). After that, you can take your Star Wars Hero Droid R/C BB-8 ($229.99) for a stroll while wearing your Star Wars Ugly Holiday Sweaters (start at $24.99) and Darth Vader Slippers ($15.99). Turns out the answer to Rey’s “Where do you come from?” was ThinkGeek all along.
CALL ME CRAZY
Everybody keeps asking me which smartphone to buy. If you want a phone that’s as unique as you are, check out the ZTE Axon M ($725). A lot of phone makers are going for slick and thin but this one takes another approach: Thick and unfoldable. Here’s the cool part: Unfold it and you have a dual screen phone that will let you do different things on each screen. Watch a movie on one, chat friends about the movie on the other. Your geek friends will think it’s a newfangled Nintendo 3DS.
USE THE FORCE
Prefer strong to strange? Moto Z2 Force Edition ($720) is nearly indestructible, so much so that Motorola guarantees it won’t crack or shatter. It’s also Transformer-cool with its array of Moto Mods that can instantly morph it into a 360° camera, gaming console, powerful stereo speaker, video projector, battery powerhouse, and more. The new Mod Speaker with Amazon Alexa ($149.99) listens to you a lot better than many SO’s. It hears and responds to requests to play music, get news, answer questions and more. Whether you’re across the room or on the go, the speakers four powerful microphones make sure Alexa always hears you.
I actually had my mom convinced the Kingston Bolt (starts at $59.99) was a high tech toothpick. She’s not naive, it’s just that tiny. (And she’s seen the wacky stuff I review, so really nothing surprises her anymore.) Anyway, the Bolt is small but mighty. It’s basically a flash drive for your iPhone or iPad. Just plug it into the lighting jack, download the Bolt app, and then backup your camera roll to the expanded memory. You can even shoot new pictures and videos directly to the Bolt. Not impressed yet? Consider this: The 128GB Bold holds 32,000 photos. Mind blown.
PET ROCK PROTECTION
Sure, it looks like a pet rock, but the Bullguard by Dojo ($199.99) is actually rock-solid security for your WiFi connected world. It protects your entire WiFi network and everything using it, such as your your laptop, tablet, smart lights, thermostats, baby monitors, and more. So if this past year of high profile cyber snafu’s made you feel like you needed to hire a live-in security expert to keep out hackers, consider it done. Best part? It does not charge by the hour.
SANE RETRO GAMES
Retro’s all the rage this year and one of my favorite madcap characters — Crash Bandicoot — is back, enhanced, entranced and ready-to-dance with the remastered N. Sane Trilogy (39.99). You’ll spin, jump, wump and repeat as you take on the epic challenges and adventures from the beloved 90’s video game. Crash fanatics can relive all their favorite moments in full HD graphical glory and put some UMPH in their WUMP!
THE YEAR’S BOOZY BEST
Alright, I’m just going to say it: the leather PortoVino Wine Purse ($74.95) is one of the best gadgets of this entire year. It looks like any ole’ tote bag, but you can actually carry two full bottles of wine inside its insulated pouch, which will keep it cold and let you pour vino discreetly into your cup from the spout. Careful. You don’t want to be that mom at the Christmas play. But in all other circumstances? Necessary. Alternately, you could hide a nip in the Hello Blush Wine Bracelet ($44.99), which looks like a bangle. But if you fill it before you go out, you can top off your buzz as discreetly as Dick Tracy making a call on his watch phone.
Everyone has a favorite emoji. The one they attach to every message, whether it needs emoting or not, right? Mine Give them that emoji in plush pillow form. That’s a Poonicorn ($12). Everyone will get a laugh. Especially those who have been pelted with this emoticon.
AL DENTE’S THE SAME, SINGING’S THE GAME
Also in the category of hint presents is the Al Dente Pasta timer ($20) because someone in your life probably thinks that pasta should be mushy. This adorable little guy goes into the pasta water with the pasta. When it’s done to perfection — not stuck together in an inedible mass — it sings.
UGLY CHRISTMAS MAN ROMPERS
Fleek is slang for up-to-the-minute fashionable. So I suppose that’s what these man Rompers for Men ($99) are from GetOnFleek. If you can convince your man to don them using this argument, then I want to see the selfies. That would be worth the cost of gift giving right there.
If you can get him into those rompers, see if you can also get him into the Hydro Hammock, which is a portable hammock, hot tub, bathtub that lets you take soaking in water anywhere. If you are willing to spend a lot of money on that. It starts at $450 for a cold water hammock and goes up to $2000 for heated, off-the-grid soaking, using it’s portable water heater.
Also in the category of “I want to see the pictures” is the Hushme phone accessory. It’s a mask you wear to talk on the phone privately. And if you can convince anyone to do this, you could get rich on the photo opportunities it will offer you. A person wearing it may be speaking privately — even when in public places — but they look like they are wearing a high-tech germ mask or are being slowly consumed by mechanized aliens.
The SlideRider ($76) is an indoor slide that you can attach to your stairs and turn them into a giant slide, and will surely be the greatest toy imaginable for any child. The SlideRider is currently in a concept phase and was designed by a group of inventors at Quirky, where a group of people come together to collaborate on an idea for a product and work together to bring it to fruition.
Gravity is, apparently, so yesterday right now, too. At least if you stock up on gear from the Levitating X Collection. Plates ($200), cocktail glasses ($190), plants, decor and more. And all of it floats above the surface of your table or shelf, freaking out anyone accustomed to living here on earth.
BOOZY ADVENT CALENDAR
I’m sure this next one one is inspired by Bad Santa. It’s what Bad Santa wants for Christmas in any event. A Boozy Advent Calendar for the Masters of Malt ($112 and up). Every day leading up to the big holiday contains another sampler dram of whatever liquor you choose. Single malt? Gin? It up to you. And there are lots to choose from. Hurry, though. These ship from the UK.
I am starting to feel like an enabler so with that, I’m going to wrap this up. No really, I’m giving most of these to someone on my list this year. If they don’t love it, they can re-gift right back to me, because these are just plain awesome. You’re welcome.